Thongchai Thailand

Climate Impact of the Kuwait Oil Fires: A Bibliography

Posted on: July 29, 2018

“The Kuwaiti oil fires were caused by Iraqi military forces setting fire to a reported 605 to 732 oil wells along with an unspecified number of oil filled low-lying areas, such as oil lakes and fire trenches, as part of a scorched earth policy while retreating from Kuwait in 1991 due to the advances of Coalition military forces in the Persian Gulf War. The fires were started in January and February 1991, and the first well fires were extinguished in early April 1991, with the last well capped on November 6, 1991” (Wikipedia). An important researcher in this field was the late great Peter V. Hobbs, Professor of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Washington. He specialized in cloud and aerosol effects and left us his book on Atmospheric Science as a free pdf online: ATMOSPHERIC SCIENCE BY PETER V. HOBBS

  1. 1991: Browning, K. A., et al. “Environmental effects from burning oil wells in Kuwait.” Nature 351.6325 (1991): 363. Model calculations, constrained by satellite observations, indicate that most of the smoke from the oil fires in Kuwait will remain in the lowest few kilometres of the troposphere. Beneath the plume there is a severe reduction in daylight, and a day-time temperature drop of ~10 °C within ~200 km of the source. Episodic events of acid rain and photochemical smog will occur within ~1,000-2,000km of Kuwait. But changes in the Asian summer monsoon are unlikely to exceed the natural interannual variability and stratospheric ozone concentrations are unlikely to be affected.
  2. 1992: Laursen, Krista K., et al. “Emission factors for particles, elemental carbon, and trace gases from the Kuwait oil fires.” Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres 97.D13 (1992): 14491-14497. Emission factors are presented for particles, elemental carbon (i.e., soot), total organic carbon in particles and vapor, and for various trace gases from the 1991 Kuwait oil fires. Particle emissions accounted for ∼2% of the fuel burned. In general, soot emission factors were substantially lower than those used in recent “nuclear winter” calculations. Differences in the emissions and appearances of some of the individual fires are discussed. Carbon budget data for the composite plumes from the Kuwait fires are summarized; most of the burned carbon in the plumes was in the form of CO2. Fluxes are presented for several combustion products.
  3. 1992: Pilewskie, Peter, and Francisco PJ Valero. “Radiative effects of the smoke clouds from the Kuwait oil fires.” Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres 97.D13 (1992): 14541-14544. The radiative effects of the smoke from the Kuwait oil fires were assessed by measuring downwelling and upwelling solar flux, as well as spectral solar extinction beneath, above, and within the smoke plume. Radiative flux divergence measurements were made to determine smoke‐induced heating and cooling rates. Seven radiation flight missions were undertaken between May 16 and June 2, 1991, to characterize the plume between the source region in Kuwait and approximately 200 km south, near Manama, Bahrain. We present results from one flight representative of conditions of the composite plume. On May 18, 1991, in a homogeneous, well‐mixed region of smoke approximately 100 km downstream of the fires, visible optical depths as high as 2 were measured, at which time transmission to the surface was 8%, while 78% of the solar radiation was absorbed by the smoke. The calculated instantaneous heating rate inside the plume reached 24 K/d. While these effects are probably typical of those regions in the Persian Gulf area directly covered by the smoke, there is no evidence to suggest significant climatic effects in other regions.
  4. 1992: Ferek, Ronald J., et al. “Chemical composition of emissions from the Kuwait oil fires.” Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres 97.D13 (1992): 14483-14489. Airborne measurements in the srnoke from the Kuwait oil fires in May and June 1991 indicate that the combined oil and gas emissions were equivalent to the consumption of about 4.6 million barrels of oil per day. The combustion was relatively efficient, with about 96% of the fuel carbon burned emitted as CO2. Particulate smoke emissions averaged 2% of the fuel burned, of which about 20% was soot. About two‐thirds of the mass of the smoke was accounted for by salt, soot, and sulfate. The salt most likely originated from oil field brines, which were ejected from the wells along with the oil. The salt accounts for the fact that many of the plumes were white. SO2 and NOx were removed from the smoke at rates of about 6 and 22% per hour, respectively. The high salt and sulfate contents explain why a large fraction of the particles in the smoke were efficient cloud condensation nuclei.
    Citing Literature
  5. 1992: Hobbs, Peter V., and Lawrence F. Radke. “Airborne studies of the smoke from the Kuwait oil fires.” Science 256.5059 (1992): 987-991. Airborne studies of smoke from the Kuwait oil fires were carried out in the spring of 1991 when ∼4.6 million barrels of oil were burning per day. Emissions of sulfur dioxide were ∼57% of that from electric utilities in the United States; emissions of carbon dioxide were ∼2% of global emissions; emissions of soot were ∼3400 metric tons per day. The smoke absorbed ∼75 to 80% of the sun’s radiation in regions of the Persian Gulf. However, the smoke probably had insignificant global effects because (i) particle emissions were less than expected, (ii) the smoke was not as black as expected, (iii) the smoke was not carried high in the atmosphere, and (iv) the smoke had a short atmospheric residence time.
  6. 1992: Parungo, F., et al. “Aerosol particles in the Kuwait oil fire plumes: Their morphology, size distribution, chemical composition, transport, and potential effect on climate.” Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres 97.D14 (1992): 15867-15882. Airborne aerosol samples were collected with an impactor in the Kuwait oil fire plumes in late May 1991. A transmission electron microscope was used to examine the morphology and size distribution of the particles, and an X ray energy spectrometer was used to determine the elemental composition of individual particles. A chemical spot test was used to identify particles containing sulfate. The results show that the dominant particles were (1) agglomerates of spherical soot particles coated with sulfate, (2) cubic crystals containing NaCl and S04=, (3) irregular‐shaped dust containing Si, Al, Fe, Ca, K, and/or S, and (4) very small ammonium sulfate spherules. The concentrations of small sulfate particles increased at higher levels or greater distances from the fire, suggesting the transformation of SO2 gas to sulfate particles by photooxidation followed by homogeneous nucleation. The number of soot, salt, and dust particles that were coated with sulfate increased farther from the fire, and the thickness of the coating increased with altitude. This suggested that gas‐to‐particle conversion had occurred by means of catalytic oxidation combined with heterogeneous nucleation during the plume dispersion. Because the sulfate coating can modify the hydrophobic surfaces of soot and dust particles to make them hydrophilic, most of the particles in the plume apparently were active cloud condensation nuclei that could initiate clouds, fog, and smog, which in turn could affect regional surface temperature, air quality, and visibility. Long‐range air trajectories suggested that some aerosols from the fires could have transported to eastern Asia. It seems possible (but is presently unproven) that a severe flood in China in June was influenced by aerosols from the plumes.
  7. 1994: McQueen, Jeffery T., and Roland R. Draxler. “Evaluation of model back trajectories of the Kuwait oil fires smoke plume using digital satellite data.” Atmospheric Environment 28.13 (1994): 2159-2174. This study evaluates the accuracy of the National Weather Service Medium Range Forecast (MRF) global model outputs in simulating the transport and dispersion of the Kuwait oil fire smoke plume. A technique was developed to analyze NOAA polar orbiting satellite imagery to obtain horizontal smoke plume positions. The plume heights were obtained by combining the satellite analysis with back trajectory results. Backward trajectories were computed using both coarse and fine resolution MRF wind fields. The average of the absolute value of relative trajectory error ([R.T.E.]) for the late summer period (24 July–15 September 1991) was about 10°o of the travel distance when using the fine grid trajectories with the optimum plume centroid height and 14°o when using the coarse grid model output. The absolute R.T.E. for the optimum plume height runs was half of the R.T.E. for the constant starting height run ([R.T.E.] = 0.21). This difference indicates the importance of proper specification of plume centroid height when using high resolution meteorological data for transport studies. Use of the standard coarse grid MRF wind fields to drive the transport model was shown to lead to large errors near the source due to the poor horizontal and vertical resolution.
  8. 1994: Herring, John A., and Peter V. Hobbs. “Radiatively driven dynamics of the plume from 1991 Kuwait oil fires.” Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres 99.D9 (1994): 18809-18826. Optical properties of the aerosol from the 1991 Kuwait oil fires are calculated using measured aerosol size distributions and a spectral refractive index based on the measured chemical composition of the particulate matter. At a wavelength of 538 nm the calculated light‐scattering coefficient agrees well with measurements, but the calculated single‐scattering albedo is systematically higher by about 18% than the measured value. Radiative transfer calculations indicate maximum net daytime heating rates of 94 and 56 K d−1 for smoke 1 and 3 hours downwind of the fires, respectively. In the upper regions of the plume, where the calculated heating rates decrease with height, a radiauve‐convective mixed layer developed. There was no significant temperature inversion at the top of this layer, which allowed rapid entrainment of air into the top of the plume, causing it to thicken at an observed rate of ∼0.1 m s−1. In addition, radiative heating of the plume as a whole caused it to lift as a unit at a measured rate of ∼0.1 m s−1 during the first few hours of plume evolution. A theory, based on mixed layer modeling and a scale analysis of the equations of motion, is presented that successfully reproduces the two rates of vertical transport. This model of the dynamics of a radiatively heated plume can be used to predict the evolution and lofting of large composite smoke plumes, such as those from forest fires; it also has implications for the transport, lifetime, and climatic importance of smoke generated on continental scales.
  9. 1997: Nichol, Janet. “Bioclimatic impacts of the 1994 smoke haze event in Southeast Asia.” Atmospheric Environment 31.8 (1997): 1209-1219.A smoke haze event of unprecedented magnitude which occurred in southeast Asia 1994 is statistically evaluated for its impact on regional and global climate using climatic and air quality data from Singapore, and by comparison with the better-known smoke pollution episode resulting from the Kuwait oil fires of 1991. Several local climatic parameters were found to be closely related to air quality on a daily basis. Mean data for the haze period in 1994 appeared to differ significantly from the long-term means for the same period in previous years, with the exception of daily mean air temperature and mean Global Solar Radiation (GSR). The latter is in spite of the inverse relationship between daily GSR and pollution levels. An ENSO-related influence on regional climate (masking some of the perceived regional impacts of the haze) is invoked to explain the apparent contradiction. The significance of the smoke haze at global scale is considered for its impact on the global carbon budget, especially due to the combustion of peat in the coastal lowlands of Sumatra and Kalimantan. The scarcity of available ecological data is regretted and recommendations are made for future cooperation over monitoring and research between scientists and government bodies from the countries in the southeast Asian region.
  10. 2000: Anthes, Richard A., Christian Rocken, and Ying-Hwa Kuo. “Applications of COSMIC to meteorology and climate.” Terrestrial, Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences 11.1 (2000): 115-156. The GPSIMET (Global Positioning System/Meteorology, Ware et a1. 19996) project demonstrated atmospheric limb sounding from low-earth-orbit (LEO) with high vertical resolution, high accuracy, and global coverage in all weather. Based on the success and scientific results of GPS/MET, Taiwan’s National Space Program Office (NSPO), the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR), the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL), the University of Texas at Austin, the University of Arizona, Florida State University and other partners in the university community are developing COSMIC (Constellation observing System for Meteorology, Ionosphere and Climate), a follow-on project for weather and climate research, climate monitoring, space weather, and geodetic science. COSMIC plans to launch eight LEO satellites in 2004. Each COSMIC satellite will retrieve about 500 daily profiles of key ionospheric and atmospheric properties from the tracked GPS radio-signals as they are occulted behind the Earth limb. The constellation will provide frequent global snapshots of the atmosphere and ionosphere with about 40000 daily soundings.
    This paper discusses some of the applications of COSMIC data for meteorology, including polar meteorology, numerical weather prediction (NWP), and climate. Applications to ionospheric research including space weather and geodesy are described elsewhere in this issue of TAO. In meteorology COSMIC will provide high vertical resolution temperature, pressure and water vapor information for a variety of atmospheric process studies and improve the forecast accuracy of numerical weather prediction models. The COSMIC data set will allow investigation of the global water vapor distribution and map the atmospheric flow of water vapor that is so crucial for understanding and predicting weather and climate. The data set will provide accurate geopotential heights, enable the detection of gravity waves from the upper troposphere to the stratosphere, reveal the height and shape of the tropopause globally with unprecedented accuracy, support the investigation of fronts and other baroclinic structures, and improve our understanding of tropopause-stratosphere exchange processes. COSMIC data will complement other observing systems and improve global weather analyses, particularly over the oceans and polar regions, and NWP forecasts made from these analyses. Through assimilation in numerical models, COSMIC data will improve the resolution and accuracy of the global temperature, pressure and water vapor fields, and through the model’s dynamical and physical adjustment mechanisms, the wind fields as well. These improved analyses and forecasts will provide significant benefits to aviation and other industries. For climate research and monitoring COSMIC will provide an accurate global thermometer that will monitor Earth’s atmosphere in all weather with unprecedented long-term stability, resolution, coverage, and accuracy. COSMIC will provide a data set for the detection of climate variability and change, the separation of natural and anthropogenic causes, the calibration of other satellite observing systems and the verification and improve events especially in remote oceanic regions, and it will enable scientists to monitor the response of the global atmosphere to regional events such as Volcanic eruptions, the Kuwait oil fires, or the recent Indonesian and Mexican forest fires. Upper-tropospheric refractivity data from COSMIC may shed new light on the controversy over the role that tropical convection of COSMIC data will provide new insights into the global hydrologic cycle.
  11. 2003: Rudich, Yinon, Ayelet Sagi, and Daniel Rosenfeld. “Influence of the Kuwait oil fires plume (1991) on the microphysical development of clouds.” Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres 108.D15 (2003). Applications of new retrieval methods to old satellite data allowed us to study the effects of smoke from the Kuwait oil fires in 1991 on clouds and precipitation. The properties of smoke‐affected and smoke‐free clouds were compared on the background of the dust‐laden desert atmosphere. Several effects were observed: (1) clouds typically developed at the top of the smoke plume, probably because of solar heating and induced convection by the strongly absorbing aerosols; (2) large salt particles from the burning mix of oil and brines formed giant cloud condensation nuclei (CCN) close to the source, which initiated coalescence in the highly polluted clouds; (3) farther away from the smoke source, the giant CCN were deposited, and the extremely high concentrations of medium and small CCN dominated cloud development by strongly suppressing drop coalescence and growth with altitude; and (4) the smaller cloud droplets in the smoke‐affected clouds froze at colder temperatures and suppressed both the water and ice precipitation forming processes. These observations imply that over land the smoke particles are not washed out efficiently and can be transported to long distances, extending the observed effects to large areas. The absorption of solar radiation by the smoke induces convection above the smoke plumes and consequently leads to formation of clouds with roots at the top of the smoke layer. This process dominates over the semidirect effect of cloud evaporation due to the smoke‐induced enhanced solar heating, at least in the case of the Kuwait fires.
  12. 2008: Ramanathan, Veerabhadran, and Gregory Carmichael. “Global and regional climate changes due to black carbon.” Nature geoscience 1.4 (2008): 221. Black carbon in soot is the dominant absorber of visible solar radiation in the atmosphere. Anthropogenic sources of black carbon, although distributed globally, are most concentrated in the tropics where solar irradiance is highest. Black carbon is often transported over long distances, mixing with other aerosols along the way. The aerosol mix can form transcontinental plumes of atmospheric brown clouds, with vertical extents of 3 to 5 km. Because of the combination of high absorption, a regional distribution roughly aligned with solar irradiance, and the capacity to form widespread atmospheric brown clouds in a mixture with other aerosols, emissions of black carbon are the second strongest contribution to current global warming, after carbon dioxide emissions. In the Himalayan region, solar heating from black carbon at high elevations may be just as important as carbon dioxide in the melting of snowpacks and glaciers. The interception of solar radiation by atmospheric brown clouds leads to dimming at the Earth’s surface with important implications for the hydrological cycle, and the deposition of black carbon darkens snow and ice surfaces, which can contribute to melting, in particular of Arctic sea ice.

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